Oakland Athletics executive Billy Beane once told Peter Gammons that the first two months of the season are about finding out what you have, the next two are about getting what you need, and the final two about playing with your best possible team. In the case of the St. Louis Cardinals and their rotation, it's probably safe to skip directly to the second part of that three-phase approach.

It's no secret, the Cardinals rotation is a mess. They entered Wednesday ranked 20th in rotation ERA, as well as 25th in quality starts and 24th in average game score. Three of their five starters had ERA+ worse than 75. One of the two above that line, Jack Flaherty, had an unsightly 1.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio that portents future struggles. At least the Cardinals can feel good about Jordan Montgomery. Otherwise, it's easy to see why they've struggled out of the gate. 

Some help could be on the way. Adam Wainwright, a pillar of the Cardinals' rotation dating back nearly two decades, is nearing his return from the injured list. Alas, Wainwright showed reduced velocity and effectiveness during the spring, including as part of the World Baseball Classic, so it's anyone's guess as to how much of an improvement he will be over the incumbent group.

Even if Wainwright is better than Jake Woodford, and even if one of Miles Mikolas or Steven Matz gets right, it's conceivable the Cardinals will need another new starter in the near future. The trade market isn't yet in operation, and the free-agent market is barren for a reason. That leaves only internal options. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they have some worth considering.

Let's take a look at three young members of St. Louis' Triple-A rotation, and size up whether any of them are good enough to help savage the Cardinals' season. (Note that the pitchers are presented in alphabetical order.)

1. RHP Gordon Graceffo

Who is he? Graceffo, 23, is a former fifth-round pick by way of Villanova who cracked several top-100 lists this spring. He sailed through the lower minors, reaching Double-A in his first full professional season. His introduction to Triple-A has not gone as swimmingly: he's sporting a 4.91 ERA in his first five starts while averaging nearly a walk every other frame. The second part there is surprising, given that he walked just 5.1% of the batters he faced last season. To be fair, five of his 10 walks came in a single outing.

What is his game like? Graceffo at his best is a physical right-hander (he's listed at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds) who has an unusual delivery, during which he steps back with each foot to begin his operation, then quickly turns into his leg kick. His arsenal has four pitches: a 94 mph fastball and a sweeping slider, as well as a pair of lesser-used offerings in his curveball and changeup. The slider is considered by most to be his best pitch, though his cambio has been his top bat-misser this season, generating a 46% whiff rate to date.

When will he be ready? We're inclined to think sooner than later. Graceffo has battled his command at times this year, as evidenced by the above statistics. Once he demonstrates he's ironed out whatever mechanical deficiencies have caused that, there's not much more for him to prove at the minor-league level. 

2. LHP Matthew Liberatore

Who is he? Liberatore, 23, was originally a first-round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays. The Cardinals later acquired him in the trade that sent Randy Arozarena to St. Petersburg. Liberatore made nine appearances last season, posting a 5.97 ERA in 34 innings. He's fared much better in Triple-A this year, compiling a 2.14 ERA and a 3.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio across five starts.

What is his game like? There were rumblings in the spring that Liberatore had improved his arsenal in a notable way. We can now confirm that's the case. His fastball is coming in nearly a tick hotter, at 94.5 mph, and features nearly an inch more induced vertical break. He's throwing it inside the zone far more often, and to better results; his contact rate was down by eight percentage points. Liberatore's signature curveball, meanwhile, is showing more velocity, break, and spin. Those pitches are the keys to his game, and he knows it: he's using the two far more often than he did last season.

When will he be ready? In our estimation, Liberatore is ready. In fact, it would not surprise us if the Cardinals deem his arrival to be imminent in nature.

3. RHP Michael McGreevy

Who is he? McGreevy, 22, was the Cardinals' first-round pick in 2021. He elicited comparisons to Cleveland Guardians right-hander Shane Bieber coming out of college, though that had more to do with their shared alma mater (the University of California, Santa Barbara) than anything more substantive. He opened this season in Double-A, but the Cardinals promoted him after three dominant starts that saw him record 16 strikeouts versus 17 hits-plus-walks.

What is his game like? McGreevy is another physical righty (6-foot-4, 215 pounds). He relies heavily on a low-90s sinker and a slider, with the former generating an average launch angle of 2 degrees in his Triple-A debut. He doesn't miss many bats, and it's fair to wonder if he'll end up resembling Dakota Hudson more than the Cardinals would like. 

When will he be ready? Double-A is the page-69 test for prospects. If you like what you're seeing there, you'll probably like them at the majors. McGreevy, then, will presumably get the call later this year or early next. We do think he's behind the other two in line, which will delay his arrival. Additionally, the Cardinals may want him to work on his arsenal a touch more before launching him to the majors, even if he's clearly too much for minor leaguers to handle.